Monday, April 30, 2012

Trayvon Martin's parents come to Alabama

The parents of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin, are expected in Alabama this week. They are expected at a town hall meeting on the state of justice and youth in America. The public will get a chance to discuss concerns related to the Trayvon Martin case.

The meeting will be held at Pearson Hall at Miles College Thursday, from 5-7 p.m.

A neighborhood watch member admitted to killing Martin in February. The killing caused major uproar among people who felt the killing was an example of extreme racial profiling and vigilantism.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Lawmaker not expecting Jeffco bill to pass

A bleak forecast is expected by a state lawmaker concerning efforts to help Jefferson County’s finances.

Vestavia Hills Representative Jack Williams fears his bill will die in the session. Williams’ bill would put a new occupational tax in place that is basically the same as the old one, no higher than .5% of your earnings if you work anywhere in the county.

His bill, as written when it passed a House Committee last week, puts that tax on people like architects and doctors who pay the state a license fee, something the old tax did not and what Williams terms a mistake he never intended.

That, plus a general lack of desire by several lawmakers to simply hand the county more money without other strings attached probably means the bill is dead before it hits the house floor.

“At this point, I think the focus, my focus at least, is on finding a solution in the special session,” said Williams.

County lawmakers have promised all spring that they would come up with a way to give the county's general fund some of the $40-million it needs to avoid even bigger cuts and help it get out of bankruptcy. No solution that has been floated out so far has gotten near enough support, and time is running out.

Williams says the county's best hope may be a special session, but that would only happen if Governor Bentley agrees to call one for the county or add their problems to another special session scheduled for May. Williams says he thinks the county's best hope now is to get a bill that is put together by Bentley and the legislative leadership, not county lawmakers.

“We've had such difficulties getting extremely divergent views together on a local bill that we may have to go with a statewide bill, and that's probably goint to involve the Governor and leadership of the House and Senate getting more directly involved,” said Williams.

Representative Williams says the reason he is hopeful state leaders may get involved is because Jefferson County could be in danger of being thrown out of bankruptcy court if it can't find a revenue fix. If Jefferson County's bankruptcy fails, that could drive borrowing costs higher for other counties and municipalities in the state.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Railroad Park gets finance boost from Birmingham

Railroad Park may soon get the financial help it has been looking for.

Tomorrow, the Birmingham City Council will vote on giving the park another $250,000 to help keep its budget balanced.

The park foundation is a privately-run group that pays for things like security and maintenance. This would be the second payment the city has made to the park this year.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jeffco lawmakers looking to authorize traffic cameras

Drivers beware in Jefferson County; we could be seeing more traffic cameras going up.

On Wednesday, the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation in the Senate is looking at bills to authorize the cameras usage.

One bill will allow any city to go to traffic cameras. Two other bills will allow the cameras to be used in Leeds and Vestavia Hills.

Backers of the idea believe it will lead to safer driving habits.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jeffco Commissioners request Cooper Green audit

Jefferson County commissioners have requested a special audit into the finances of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital.

Next week, commissioners will vote to hire a company to conduct a comprehensive audit the hospital.

Last week, the hospital announced almost $7-million in cuts because of funding problems. The hospital for the poor decided to shut down its O.B. and oncology departments.

"For once and for all a forensic audit will uncover any deficiency whether it's the county commission or whether it's with Cooper Green Hospital," said Commissioner Jimmie Stephens.
One Cooper Green official says, even with the budget cuts, the hospital still faces a deficit of up to $6-million by the end of the fiscal year.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham to mark April 27th tornado anniversary

The city of Birmingham will mark the first anniversary of the April 27th tornadoes with a memorial, a concert and a 5k run.

The city will hold a commemoration service at 5 p.m. Friday 27 at the corner of Dugan and Hibernian Streets in Pratt City. American Idol season two winner Ruben Studdard will perform. Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods to the service.

The next day, former Crimson Tide star Bobby Humphrey will lead several former football stars in a 5-k run through Pratt City to raise money for storm victims.

The city will also break ground on a new senior living facility and will unveil renovation plans for the Pratt City Library.

The concert will wrap up with another American Idol performance from Taylor Hicks.

Tune in to FOX6 News for complete coverage of the one year anniversary. We will air a special extended newscast from 4 to 7 that afternoon with reports from all over the state.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New smoking ban passes in Birmingham

Birmingham's city council has passed a tough new smoking ordinance.

In the council's chambers on Tuesday, those for and against the new City of Birmingham Smoke Free Ordinance got a chance to speak their mind. More than 31 concerned citizens got 3 minutes each at the meeting to argue for and against this new ordinance.

The City of Birmingham’s old smoking ordinance banned smoking in bars and restaurants. The ban allowed the businesses to make the choice to allow smoking or not. The new ordinance has banned smoking in all public places.

Speakers today included Secretary of State Beth Chapman, the President of the United Way, doctors, ministers and members of the West End community. They were all in support of the ban, saying the city needs to stand up and protect the health of its citizens.

Many of those who spoke out against the ban were business owners who say the city has not done a good job communicating the details of the ban and were upset that the city waited until last night to put up a revised version of the ordinance. The owner of the Blue Monkey Lounge in Five Points South spoke at the meeting and said he wants the ordinance to allow smoking on businesses patios. Under the ban, patio smokers will be required to stay 5 feet away from entrances. An amendment changed the distance from the door to 7 feet.

Other amendments that were passed by the city council allowed for the use of electronic cigarettes and set the minimum at 80% of sales from tobacco for cigar bars to get an exemption.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax deadline hits at midnight

After an extra two days to file, federal income tax returns are due today.

If you think you may miss today's deadline, you can file an extension with the IRS. Use form 48-68 if you expect a refund. That gives taxpayers an extra six months automatically, making October 15 the deadline to file without a late-filing penalty.

For those who owe taxes, the extension will not help. Payments still must be submitted by today's deadline, but they can be made in installments. Use form 94-65, which will come with fees.

Taxpayers had an extra two days to file because April 15th fell on a Sunday and yesterday was a holiday in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jefferson County goes head-to-head against creditors in court

It is Jefferson County versus creditors in court today. The two are fighting over how much sewer system revenues the county should be allowed to spend on legal fees and building projects to keep the system operating.

Creditors want legal fees for county attorneys to be considered extra expenses. They want annual capital expenditures to be low and suggest a sewer rate hike to cover legal expenses. If the judge does not approve the increase, creditors want the county to be forced to do a rate study, and raise rates by July 1st.

The county argues they need to do their own rate study and says all of this was covered in the judge's earlier rulings.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Rally planned for Cooper Green oncology clinic

Patients, advocates, and even some doctors and nurses are expected to be rallying outside Cooper Green hospital on Monday.

Patients of the oncology clinic at Cooper Green plan to rally this morning at 7:30 a.m. to protest the clinic's closing. It is a victim of more than $6-million in annual cuts the hospital has promised the county to balance its books.

The doctors and patients say they're concerned about the quality of treatment these cancer patients will now get and where they will go to get that treatment.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drug tests for welfare bill under fire from Democrats

Should welfare recipients be forced to take drug tests? Some state Republican lawmakers say "yes," but they are facing opposition from Democrats.

On Thursday, Republicans hoped to bring the bill up for a vote in the House. However, it was taken off the agenda after a filibuster by Democrats.

House bill 197 would require anyone who signs up for welfare to take a drug test. Anyone who tests positive will have to pay for the test.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Pell City to hold meeting over murky tap water

More discussions take place on Thursday about the murky water situation in Pell City. Leaders will hold a meeting at city hall tonight to discuss ongoing water issues.

Residents say their water has been brown and undrinkable since December. City officials say the problem started when the city tied into the Coosa Valley Water system. The water flow reversed direction, stirring up sediment in the pipes.

Tonight's meeting starts at 5:00 pm.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Jeffco still looking for financial help from lawmakers

There is no action yet for a possible bailout for Jefferson County.

Proposed bills to help the county out of its financial crisis could come up for debate, and be voted on, in the county house delegation next week. Some lawmakers are pushing legislation that would allow the county to bring back the occupational tax. If the county does not get help, there will be more layoffs.

"I've had concerns and I still do that's whether there will be help or not. Without any help we are looking at discontinuing any county services," said Commissioner Jimmie Stephens.

If there is no help from lawmakers, County Manager Tony Petelos says he may ask Governor Bentley to include the job tax in any special session he might call.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Many speak out at immigration law discussion

Possible changes to Alabama’s immigration law came up for public discussion and more than 20 people spoke out about it.

Opponents of the law dominated most of the public hearing on Wednesday. They said proposed changes to the law do not go far enough. They want lawmakers to repeal the law altogether.

Some supporters also spoke out against the changes, but for the opposite reason. They say it weakens the law and they do not want the original bill changed.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Birmingham leaders travel to Montgomery to lobby

Birmingham's mayor and city council members head to Montgomery today to lobby state lawmakers. They want lawmakers to fund mass transit systems like Max Buses. They will also lobby for the state to give Jefferson County some help with its general fund budget.

As a former county commissioner, Mayor William Bell says it is an issue he understands.

"The county cannot stay afloat under its current condition. There has to be a way to restore revenue to the county. The commissioners can't solve that problem; the city of Birmingham can't solve that problem. Only the state legislature can give them the authority to solve their own problem or put in place a way for them to deal with some increased revenues,” said Bell.

Yesterday was the first day lawmakers returned to the capital after a ten day break.

Copyright 2012 WBRC. All rights reserved.